About the Project

This project pulls together a curated collection of notable inscriptions from the signed copies collection of the Leslie Feinberg Library in an interactive format in order to highlight Feinberg’s relationship to authors across time, space, identity, and subject. Focusing on these signed books brings visibility to authors who may otherwise be ignored or erased by mainstream versions of history. They also show the importance of Feinberg’s life work on other authors, activists, and scholars.

The word “signed” in the phrase signed book can take many meanings: obviously, there is the literal signature found in the book, a signature to Feinberg from the author of said book. Sign also holds the meaning of a gesture, a physical movement to portray information (i.e. she signed to her lover to come closer), and as the probable presence, occurrence, stand in, or evidence of something (i.e. giving roses is a sign of love). Extending an understanding of signed books to encapsulate these many meanings, these signed books mark a queer gesture of a relationship between two people, and show evidence of the lives, work, and connections of these authors and Feinberg.

In conceptualizing the importance of personal libraries, Patrick Buckridge writes, “the simple act of giving a book is, or can be, ‘utopian’ in a quite complex way. Giving a book to someone may be less like saying ‘I think you’re worth this’, or ‘I think you’re like this’, and more like saying ‘I believe you can rise to this’ or –somewhat more ominously—‘I hope you can rise to this.’”[1] I would argue that the signed books in this collection mark a more equitable relationship between Feinberg and the author in which the author is saying “I hope we can rise to this together,” with “this” as building an authentic repertoire of literature and history.

The concept of gesturing as queer acts of critique and change has been built by queer theorists of color, most notably José Esteban Muñoz and Juana María Rodríguez. Rodríguez writes,

“Gestures can be literal—actual movements of the body—or figurative, gestures that reach out to manipulate how energy and matter flow in the word. … Gestures are where the literal and the figurative copulate. … They are inflected by the scent and sense of cultures marked by time, yet they also traverse borers and resist temporal categorization. … gestures form part of the ongoing impossible and necessary work of transmitting meaning, a deeply social process that reaches for connection.”[2]

The signed books in this collection mark a gesture, a social transmission of thought, from author to Feinberg and back, creating and continuing a cycle of intellectual and personal meaning-making. There is the literal gesture of signing a book: the movement of the pen, the flick of the wrist, the book passed from one set of hands to another; and there is the figurative: the exchange of gratitude, of knowledge, of meaning between one mind and heart and another.

At the end of a 2006 conference discussion of hir book Drag King Dreams, Feinberg expressed hir deep gratitude to the conference for inviting hir, stating,

“…thought is a social product. One of the hardest things about being queerly gendered is the lack of interaction, social interaction, that produces consciousness, and the social isolation that reduces consciousness, and the lack even of being able to travel and being able to expand consciousness beyond geographic boundaries and borders. And for that reason I want to thank you. Because I don’t know if you really know what I mean it when I say that this has been a gift to me, and a very precious one, but when I say it I mean it…”[3]

This quote further emphasizes the importance of this signed book collection, as it is a physical representation of the social creation of thought. Though Feinberg may not have been able to be in spaces to create consciousness as much as zie would have wanted, it is so clear that hir work influenced so many people and the creation of new forms of thought and consciousness. The books in this collection express gratitude, connection, and community that gestures at the creation of a shared consciousness.

Many of the authors in this collection are and will continued to be ignored by mainstream history. When marginalized voices are silenced through systems of oppression, violence, and the sanitization of history, publishing and making shared connection through the written word becomes ever more important. Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues showed how literature that authentically represented the author’s life could change the lives and represent the voices of thousands of people. By creating a site centered around the authors in this collection and their relationships to Feinberg, I hope to create further evidence of their work, and their resistance to erasure. The interactive books on this site also provide evidence of relationships between Feinberg and other scholars in various fields: evidence of the gestures exchanged between brilliant minds.

Pulling together this work has been so meaningful to me and I hope you find meaning in these gestures and evidence located in signed books as well. Please add to our collective understanding of Feinberg’s influence, of these authors’ work, and of the relationships mentioned here; create your own gestures, your own evidence of a shared consciousness by adding your own story.


Amy Olson, Spring 2021.

[1] Patrick Buckridge, “Books as Gifts: The Meaning and Function of a Personal Library,” Australian Literary Studies, October 1, 2012, 69, https://doi.org/10.20314/als.bbfabbf784.

[2] Juana María Rodríguez, “Introduction,” in Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings (NYU Press, 2014), 4, http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfwmq.4.

[3] Feinberg, Leslie. “FMS Roundtable on Drag King Dreams” (Future of Minority Studies Summer Collloquium, Stanford University, July 2006). http://fmsproject.cornell.edu/fms_events_feinberg_audio_cast.html